We have no control over any spiritual light or consolation except what depends on our will.
Our latest chat room discussion focuses on what St. Francis de Sales calls “holy indifference,” which is essentially surrendering to God’s will in all things. More specifically it refers to the idea of not being too attached to one thing over another as our true attachment should be to God and following his holy will. This an especially poignant topic in light of our troubling days. Grow closer to an appreciation for God’s will through this excellent topic. Prepare yourself by praying the Serenity Prayer:
God grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.
If you like the chat below, check out the Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters. Join us every week! We read a passage of St. Francis de Sales and gather at 7:30 p.m. ET each Sunday online. Great insights and sharing!
Visitation Sister: We have begun using the letters of St Francis de Sales to try to connect his spirituality and thoughts with our current concerns as well as to become more familiar with his writings, which shows his heart.
Bethany: Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). How comforting it is to know that God never changes when you need that assurance.
Visitation Sister: Question 1. Do you notice in this letter Saint Francis’s teaching about “holy indifference” which he speaks about often in other writings?
Visitation Sister: Here is the letter.
Visitation Sister: To me, St Francis has a tender touch and “voice” in this particular letter and is very concerned, it seems to me, that St Jane the Baroness trust him.
Bethany: How do you want to be remembered after you leave this world and in what days will you seek God’s help and to make that happen?
Visitation Sister: I don’t see that St Francis is emphasizing holy indifference here, do you?
Christie: I’m not done with #14 but I am not seeing holy indifference yet in his admonition, but in his example.
Christie: Ah here we go. Starting with ‘Be of good cheer!’ I suspect the theme would be picked up more.
Visitation Sister: Where is that line Christie? I can’t find it.
Christie: He exhibits holy indifference throughout, but he most clearly talks about it (in letter 14) with the paragraph that starts “Be brave, my dear daughter…”.
Visitation Sister: Thanks!
Christie: “We have no control over any spiritual light or consolation except what depends on our will, and that is protected and sheltered by our holy resolutions. While the great seal of God’s chancery is upon your heart there is nothing to fear.”.
Visitation Sister: Good reference! Thanks, Christie!
Christie: or the paragraph earlier: “What does it matter whether God’s voice comes to us amongst thorns or amongst flowers?
Visitation Sister: That is certainly indifference!
Be Not Troubled
Visitation Sister: Question 2: Saint Francis stresses in spite of the darkness of troubling days that we should not be in distress. With all that we have going on in our world with COVID and civil unrest, that might not seem like the easiest advice to follow. But why is his advice just as right then as it is now?
Denise: Good examples thanks.
Christie: Holy indifference is holy because it is also timeless.
Visitation Sister: Distress does not help a situation, although I think for most people some degree of it is unavoidable.
Visitation Sister: But it should not control us. That’s where prayer and trust come in.
Denise: Q2, because this is the same as what Jesus taught. John14:27 and other places. We are warned throughout the Gospel. And yet it is difficult when the darkness seems overtaking.
Visitation Sister: Yes, it is difficult. But we need to try to mitigate that emotional reaction, so it does not get out of hand and prayer helps.
Denise: Best counsel.
Busy as a Bee
Visitation Sister: Question 3: During this time of quarantine, we might feel like the bees in Saint Francis’s story. How during this confusing time can we stay “busy eating our fill of honey”?
Rebecca: Good selection for these troubling times!
Denise: Busy eating our fill of honey while we act and do the works, he calls each of us to do.
Visitation Sister: I guess there are “pots of honey” that we need to identify in our lives. For example in quarantine, one might read books one has been waiting for a long time to get to: that’s one pot.
Denise: A good pot.
Visitation Sister: Another could be spending more time with a favorite or new devotion.
Visitation Sister: How did we live quarantine? For me, it was the regular life plus more work.
Denise: Spending time in nature also a perfect place to pray and read.
Denise: My time was quite isolated.
Visitation Sister: Ah yes, in nature.
Bethany: It is clear in my words and action, especially as interact with those people who don’t know you and believe you.
Visitation Sister: Thanks, Bethany.
Denise: A thunderstorm pouring rain right now. Lovely.
God’s Presence in the Present
Visitation Sister: q 4: 4. How can we trust in God’s presence and purpose in spite of any dire situation?
Rebecca: For one thing, by remembering his promises, and by recalling the many times he’s shown himself faithful, both in the lives of His people and in our own lives.
Visitation Sister: Finding HIM in the present in a moment of deep stillness despite whatever dire thing surrounds one.
Rebecca: By ASKING for the gift of Trust in God.
Rebecca: By looking upon a crucifix and knowing that he gave his life freely for us. By choosing to walk in His steps, no matter what difficulties befall us.
Denise: I have seen Him in an unfolding of circumstances. A merciful grace given.
Bethany: Say rosary and chaplet of divine mercy and go to Mass and study the Bible, that will help you to believe in Jesus.
Caroline: Sorry, the internet is not cooperating in my house today.
Denise: Thank you, Bethany!
Bethany: I love to study the Bible and I try to get the Catholic Bible study class online.
Rebecca: By knowing that God is omnipresent. Desiring to DO his will. Realizing what is MOST important, union with Him — so that even the dire circumstances, in the last analysis, are RELATIVELY unimportant.
Visitation Sister: Most true.
Denise: Yes, the main focus, Rebecca!
Denise: Memento Mori.
Visitation Sister: We often wonder about God’s purpose. Perhaps that is something we cannot know and might just have to trust that He has a good one.
Bethany: How comforting it is to know that God never changes his promise. When you need his love, the best answer is by studying his words from the Bible and listen to the sermons at Mass.
Rebecca: We can FEEL abandoned — as he did on the cross — but trust/KNOW even that because He rose from the dead we can, too. We are a RESURRECTION PEOPLE; that means that life and death, death and life do not just follow one another; they co-exist in each of us simultaneously.
Denise: Caroline how is everything where you are? I hope you are always safe.
Caroline: We are not locked down again yet, but cases are up. Lots of squabbling over wearing masks. People are starting to react to the stress in troubling ways.
Visitation Sister: They should read St Francis’s letter here!
Caroline: We are not enjoying a thunderstorm down here though. Just fog.
Visitation Sister: So many do not have spiritual resources within.
Letting Go of Control
Visitation Sister: Question 5: Note that St. Francis asks that St. Jane be frank with him in mentioning her difficulties. How does this instruct us regarding how we are to approach a spiritual director, or a trusted person of prayer?
Caroline: We are to do the same, but only to the director.
Denise: I thought this was interesting, that he invites her to be open and transparent. I’ve not had that experience personally, perhaps the opposite.
Rebecca: Caroline, why only to the director?
Denise: I believe it is essential to spiritual growth.
Rebecca: Yes, Denise, that is so important. I still miss Sr. Charlotte Keith, with whom I could be exactly.
Visitation Sister: A director cannot guide well if one is not open with that person.
Caroline: Because they are able to guide you through the issue as Jesus would, acting in our faith. A confessor could too. But if we trust the wrong secular person with too much information about our spiritual lives, it can end up a big mess.
Rebecca: Even a psychotherapist cannot serve a patient well unless that patient is honest with the therapist.
Rebecca: Caroline, that’s the counsel of not throwing your pearls to the swine. But not all secular persons would be any less competent than some directors.
Visitation Sister: Probably St Francis wrote that to St Jane because she had a terrible experience with her first director. He did not understand her and really put her in a bind with spiritual exercises, secrecy, etc.
Rebecca: One of the things that worried me when I thought of becoming a sister was NOT having much control over WHO would become my director.
Visitation Sister: We allow a Sister to choose her own director, but if things seem odd for any reason, we talk with the Sister.
Rebecca: If there were a mismatch over a long period of time, it COULD be very harmful.
Visitation Sister: Some directors do not understand cloistered life.
Rebecca: That’s good, Sister, but how can it be practically carried out if there are only a few priests, or trained directors, male or female, available where the sister is cloistered?
Caroline: We gave the same question out here. Directors are incredibly difficult to find.
Visitation Sister: One contacts the Chancery, but of course it does depend on the geographical area.
Rebecca: Indeed, Caroline.
Visitation Sister: Much prayer is needed.
Visitation Sister: Earlier we spoke of Holy indifference: here is an article on that that I leave you with.
Bethany: My mom says she has a Godmother who guided her to be Catholic. She really wanted to be a nun and she entered the monastery and became a nun and left the monastery three times. Now she got married has children. If Jesus wants you to be a nun and chooses you to be a nun, he will. If he does not call, you maybe he wants you do something different or some work for his church.
Visitation Sister: Interesting, Bethany!
Visitation Sister: I wish you all a week of immersion in our Lord. Prayers for you! God bless.
Caroline: Thank you, Sister.
Rebecca: Prayer is primary. And yet, it seems God allows us, often, to go for long periods of time without a spiritual director, or, we think we’ve found a suitable one, and either the distance to get to see him is prohibitive, or something comes up in a very early session to throw the whole matter into question.
Caroline: I wonder why that is, Rebecca, when it’s so necessary.
Bethany: I have to go, and may God bless you all.
Rebecca: God bless you, Bethany.
Rebecca: I do not know. But Jesus said he will send the Holy Spirit to teach and guide us. Perhaps it is in part so that we will listen more attentively to the Holy Spirit of God, who is truly, the only perfect “spiritual director.”
Rebecca: There are, indeed, risks of mistaking one’s own thoughts or desires or insights for those of the Holy Spirit — and that is the reason, I think, that the human director is so important.
If you liked this chat, check out the Living Jesus Chat Room of the Visitation Sisters.